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Researchers embrace the kelp highway hypothesis in “a dramatic intellectual turnabout.”
"Now please launch something new in space for the next anniversary of our revolution."
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg talk handheld football, spy tech, mail robot, and more.
At ATX Television Fest, execs discuss why familiar franchises keep hitting small screens.
Seeking "relationship like on 'The Americans'," sold secrets to undercover FBI agent.
Enlarge / The USNS Bowditch, doing its thing.reader comments 28 Share this story This past week, a submarine rescue vessel from the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) came up along the USNS Bowditch, a US Navy civilian oceanographic vessel—and sent out a boat to snatch one of two uncrewed ocean "gliders" being recovered by the Americans.

The snatch-and-grab triggered a week-long diplomatic standoff accompanied by tweets from the President-elect: China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act. — Donald J.

Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2016 We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it! — Donald J.

Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2016 China gave the glider back today.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson claimed that his country's sailors saw the glider as a potential hazard and were acting responsibly when they grabbed it. "I want to say we strongly dislike the term 'steal' as it's entirely inaccurate," the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Chinese officials claimed that the gliders were likely being used to spy on China's operations in the South China Sea or perhaps locate routes traveled by PLAN's submarine fleet. The gliders are long-endurance, slow-moving submarine drones that are used for oceanographic data collection.

They can be remotely controlled on runs lasting as long as 30 days, and they use shifts in their own buoyancy to propel them.
A sea glider drone in action. The data the gliders collect is itself relatively benign—things like water salinity, temperature, and pressure.

The information they provide to oceanographic survey ships like the Bowditch helps scientists understand the thermodynamics of the areas that the gliders chart using sonar.

Thermal layers in ocean water can scatter sonar signals and create distortions in the returned "pings" of active sonars. According to the Navy's Military Sealift Command, the Bowditch's mission is to survey swaths of ocean, using "multi-beam, wide-angle, precision hydrographic sonar systems to collect water depth measurements and other related data." In other words, the Bowditch maps the sea floor by towing sonar arrays behind it.

The multi-beam sonar is used for contour mapping of the ocean floor, particularly in areas where currents and storms might shift the position of potential hazards on the bottom.

The glider's data helps ensure the accuracy of these maps—maps that could be used, say, by a US Navy submarine traversing the South China Sea. That mission has brought the Bowditch to the (rather aggressive) attention of the Chinese on several occasions in the past. On March 24, 2001, the Bowditch was threatened in the Yellow Sea by a PLAN frigate, and it was forced to leave the area and return with an armed escort.

Chinese patrol boats and aircraft again harassed the Bowditch in 2002 in the Yellow Sea, again forcing the ship to leave.

And in 2004, a Chinese fishing boat rammed the Bowditch.
Uncle Sam would like it back, please, pronto A diplomatic incident is brewing after US defense officials accused a Chinese warship of filching one of America's robotic submersibles. We're told the Seaglider underwater drone was being picked up by the USNS Bowditch in the South China Sea after it surfaced for collection.

As the US naval oceanographic vessel went to retrieve it, a Chinese ship that had been shadowing the Americans lowered a boat and grabbed it themselves. In a statement to The Register on Friday, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said: Using appropriate government-to-government channels, the Department of Defense has called upon China to immediately return an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that China unlawfully seized on December 15 in the South China Sea while it was being recovered by a US Navy oceanographic survey ship. The USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and the UUV – an unclassified "ocean glider" system used around the world to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, and sound speed – were conducting routine operations in accordance with international law about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines, when a Chinese Navy PRC DALANG III-Class ship (ASR-510) launched a small boat and retrieved the UUV. Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV.

The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored.

The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law. Seaglider drones are used to monitor ocean currents, water salinity, and other readings by oceanographers around the world.

They are capable of long-duration missions thanks for a novel propulsion system that uses wings on the side of the craft and small changes in buoyancy to provide forward impetus. There's unlikely to be any classified technology on the submersible – the basic design is well known and the Bowditch is largely staffed by civilians. We've asked the US Department of Defense for further comment on this.
In any case, the theft on Thursday by the Chinese will worsen a deteriorating diplomatic situation between the US and the Middle Kingdom. “This looks like signaling from the Chinese in response to Trump’s Taiwan call,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is hard to believe this is the action of an independent commander.

The Chinese now have much better control over the military, particularly the navy.
It is in China’s interest to send signals before Trump is inaugurated, so that he gets the message and be more restrained once he is office.” Don't hold your breath on that score. ® Sponsored: Want to know more about PAM? Visit The Register's hub
EnlargeJACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images reader comments 53 Share this story A lawsuit accusing ride-hailing service Uber of not properly serving blind customers has been resolved, with the federal judge who oversaw the case giving final approval to a settlement and fee award yesterday. The US National Federation for the Blind sued Uber in 2014, saying drivers would frequently refuse to pick up riders who used service animals, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In April, the NFB and Uber reached a deal in which Uber would send reminders to drivers, using e-mail and popups, reminding them of their obligation to accept service animals. Uber also agreed to pay $225,000 so that the NFB could have blind riders test Uber. But while Uber and the NFB were able to agree on the terms of the deal, a fight over legal fees dragged on. Lawyers representing the NFB asked for more than $3 million in fees, enhanced by a multiplier of 2.0. In their fees motion (PDF), the lawyers argued the sum was justified, since the litigation addressed several novel issues—including whether a transportation network like Uber is a "place of public accommodation" subject to the ADA. NFB lawyers argued that the settlement gave blind persons and others who rely on service animals "nationwide access to what is so far the most important new transportation innovation of the 21st Century." After a hearing last week, US Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins authorized (PDF) $1.59 million in fees, as well as a multiplier of 1.5 "to fully award plaintiffs for the fair market value of their work in taking on this case." That's a total of $2.38 million.

Cousins noted that in a similar case, in which National Federation of the Blind sued Target to make its website more disabled-accessible, a judge allowed for a 1.65 multiplier for the plaintiffs' legal fees. Neither Uber nor lawyers for the NFB immediately responded to inquiries from Ars. "We are pleased that this settlement has received final court approval, but strongly disagree with the ruling on plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees," an Uber spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to The Recorder, which reported on the final order yesterday. Uber is considering an appeal on the fees issue. A lawyer representing the blind clients said was he was looking forward to working together with Uber on the matter of service animals but said Uber's tone during the fee fight had been unfortunate. "The idea that I would gear up and do extra work because I think a case is going to settle is bananas," attorney Michael Bien told The Recorder.
Apple may have refused to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, but the tech industry is still better off working with the U.S. government on encryption issues than turning away, according to a former official with the Obama administration. “The government can get very creative,” said Daniel Rosenthal, who served as the counterterrorism director in the White House until January this year. He fears that the U.S. government will choose to “go it alone” and take extreme approaches to circumventing encryption, especially if another terrorist attack occurs. “The solutions they come up with are going to be less privacy protective,” he said during a talk at the Versus 16 cybersecurity conference. “People will think they are horrifying, and I don’t want us to see us get to that place.” Rosenthal made his comments as President-elect Donald Trump—who previously called for a boycott of Apple during its dispute with the FBI—prepares to take office in January. A Trump administration has a “greater likelihood” than the Obama administration of supporting legislation that will force tech companies to break into their customers’ encrypted data when ordered by a judge, Rosenthal said. “You have a commander-in-chief, who said at least on the campaign trail he’s more favorable towards a backdoor regime,” Rosenthal said. Earlier this year, one such bill was proposed that met with staunch opposition from privacy advocates. However, in the aftermath of another terrorist attack, Congress might choose to push aside those concerns and pass legislation drafted without the advice of Silicon Valley, he said.   Rosenthal went on to say that U.S. law enforcement needs surveillance tools to learn about terrorist plots, and that’s where the tech industry can help.

During his time in the White House, he noticed a “dramatic increase” in bad actors using encryption to thwart government efforts to spy on them. “There are people trying to come up with a reasonable solution,” he said of efforts to find a middle ground on the encryption debate. “To immediately say there is no solution is counter historical.” Michael Kan Cindy Cohn (right), executive director of EFF, and Daniel Rosenthal, former director of counterterrorism for the White House. However, Rosenthal’s comments were met with resistance from Cindy Cohn, executive director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate.
She also spoke at the talk and opposed government efforts to weaken encryption, saying it “dumbs down” security. “This idea of a middle ground that you can come up with an encryption strategy that only lets good guy into your data, and never lets a bad guy into your data, misunderstands how the math works,” she said. Law enforcement already possess a wide variety of surveillance tools to track terrorists, she said.
In addition, tech companies continue to help U.S. authorities on criminal cases and national security issues, despite past disputes over privacy and encryption. But law enforcement has done little to recognize the risks of building backdoors into products, Cohn said. Not only would this weaken security for users, but also damage U.S. business interests. “If American companies can’t offer strong encryption, foreign companies are going to walk right into that market opportunity,” she said. Cohn also said any effort to force U.S. companies to weaken encryption wouldn’t necessarily help catch terrorists.

That’s because other strong encryption products from foreign vendors are also circulating across the world. “The idea that the Americans can make sure that ISIS never gets access to strong encryption is a pipe dream,” she said. “That’s why I think this is bad idea.

Because I don’t think it’s going to work.” The Versus 16 conference was sponsored by cybersecurity firm Vera. 
Pride cometh despite one in three targeted attacks resulting in a security breach Overconfident security execs may be putting their organisations at greater risk, according to new research. A report by services firm Accenture has revealed that of the 2,000 enterprise security practitioners – representing companies with annual revenues of more than $1bn – three in four were confident in their ability to stop all crooks getting into their systems. Titled Building Confidence: Facing the Cybersecurity Conundrum (PDF), the report revealed that more than half of security executives admit it can take months to detect sophisticated breaches, and a third of those successful breaches are never discovered at all. The Anglosphere performs particularly poorly when it comes to detecting successful breaches, with 30 per cent of organisations in the US and 26 per cent in the UK taking a year or more to detect a successful attack. This may be due to the bulk of attacks hitting English-speaking nations, but it doesn't excuse the UK's confidence in monitoring for breaches, where we are second only to Germany in believing we can detect what's happening with our systems. Executives from the biggest companies across 15 countries said that they had "completely embedded cybersecurity into their cultures" but with the average organisation facing 106 targeted attacks per year, and a third of those being successful, corporations are being successfully breached two to three times every month. Despite this, up to 54 per cent of executives would invest additional budget on "more of the same things they're doing now". Only 17 per cent would invest it in cybersecurity training, and only 28 per cent would invest in mitigating financial losses. The French spend 9.4 per cent of their total IT budget on security, ahead of the 8.2 per cent global average, while the Australians tend to scrimp by with a mere 7.6 per cent on security, pipped by the Americans at 8 per cent – though ironically it is French, American and Australian companies who are the least confident in their ability to monitor for a breach. ®
Enlarge / K-219 on the surface, missile tubes open after an explosion caused by leaking fuel threatened to cause a nuclear disaster.

Three days after the fire, the ship sank in 18,000 feet of water.US Navy reader comments 21 Share this story Thirty years ago, on October 4, 1986, a Soviet ballistic missile submarine of the 667-project class (NATO designator Yankee) caught fire while on patrol north of Bermuda, just a few hundred miles off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. With 30 nuclear warheads aboard as well as a nuclear reactor, there were fears that the sub (the K-219) would cause a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident in close proximity to the US. Naturally, this all happened just days before a scheduled summit between Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. But with Chernobyl only six months behind them, Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership opted for something no one might have expected—transparency.

A translated document of the minutes of the Politburo published by the National Security Archives today shows Gorbachev ordered the immediate notification of the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency about the accident.

As the rescue attempt was mounted, the Russian leader also called for a public release acknowledging what happened by the TASS news service. The accident aboard K-219—which would later be made into a BBC TV movie starring Rutger Hauer as the doomed sub's captain and Martin Sheen as the captain of a nearby American sub—did not trigger a nuclear disaster largely due to the work of the sub crew. One sailor, Seaman Sergei Preminin, died after successfully shutting down the reactor, but the rest of the crew safely evacuated.

The captain, Submarine Commander Captain Second rank Igor Britanov, stayed with the sub and a tow crew, but he was ordered off the sub after a tow line broke and the submarine began to sink. On October 6, it went down, surpassing its crush depth in waters over 18,000 feet deep in the North Atlantic. In the minutes of the Politburo meeting (which was held immediately after news arrived that the submarine sank), Deputy Defense Minister Chief of Navy Admiral Vladimir Chernavin briefed Gorbachev and other party leaders.

Chernavin assured everyone that there would be no nuclear explosion and that the radiation from the sub would be limited to plutonium dispersed at depth by the implosion of the missile warheads: Specialists on the nosecone say that there won’t be a nuclear explosion. Under certain circumstances, 40 Kg of TNT may go off, but again, this will not bring about a [nuclear] explosion.

The plutonium will disperse and sink. Regarding the charges, they are contained in a metal ball.

After it sinks to the bottom, a corrosion process will begin which will lead to the spread of radioactivity. However it will be limited and will not reach the surface.

This is a long-term process. Answering questions about concerns that the US would try to salvage K-219 for intelligence purposes, Chernavin said that codes and other sensitive information had been taken off before everything went under. And while the concern was valid, Chernavin believed "they’ll [the Americans] take an interest in the [warheads] and the reactor’s construction.

There are no new secrets there because this submarine is an older design." The one thing Chernavin thought might be of interest was the "punch cards"—likely cryptographic codes—which were not removed because they were in "a special safe." Gorbachev responded to the briefing by reiterating his previous instructions on transparency while also trying to head off a US salvage attempt: Further, as I already said, it is important to get a message about what has happened to the socialist countries, the Americans, the IAEA, and make a report via TASS. Herewith it is necessary to specify that there is no threat of a nuclear explosion or nuclear contamination.

To prevent the Americans from raising the submarine we should say that we are developing organizational and technical measures connected with further steps related to what has occurred. Five days later, Gorbachev would meet with Reagan.

After the nearly apocalyptic events around the Autumn Forge "war scare" in 1983, both were eager to step back from the brink and begin nuclear arms talks.

Gorbachev's embrace of glasnost helped raise the level of trust between the leaders.

And while they did not reach an immediate breakthrough, the talks set the stage for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed a year later.